Making Sense of Macronutrients: A Brief Look at the Ketogenic Diet

Photo credit: Kjokkenutstyr [CC BY-SA 4.0]

Macronutrients are the building blocks needed to maintain health. The seemingly simple concept is the source of debate among scientists, nutritionists, celebrities, and laypeople. The question of ratio, quantity, and combination of macronutrients is not new. At different points in recent years, we have seen advocates for a surplus of one over the other in most fad diets—making it nearly impossible to know what to eat.

One diet currently gaining popularity was created to treat childhood epilepsy in the early twentieth century. A ketogenic diet, recently rebranded as a “bio-hack,” has been proven to be effective in the treatment of childhood epilepsy—but is it safe for everyone?

Following a ketogenic diet means strictly limiting carbohydrates—starchy vegetables, grains, and fruits—that convert to sugar during digestion and are used to power the body. Instead of being fueled by sugar, the body is forced to burn fat for energy. The body enters a state of ketosis, a similar effect to fasting in which the presence of both acetone and beta-hydroxybutyric acid appear. Followers of ketogenic diets get up to 75 percent of their daily calories from fat, 5 to 10 percent from carbs. Remaining calories come from protein, typically 1 gram per kilogram of body weight.

In addition to epilepsy, researchers have studied the therapeutic effects of a ketogenic diet on obesity, headaches, neurodegenerative diseases, and endocrine, sleep, and psychiatric disorders. One study shows that benefits in obese patients included decreased body mass index, total cholesterol, triglycerides and blood glucose.

The ketogenic diet differs from other low-carb diets, like Atkins, because it is not broken up into phases. Unlike Atkins, carbohydrates are not slowly reintroduced to the diet; practitioners just continue with the drastically reduced carb consumption. Unfortunately, a prolonged sense of deprivation can lead to significant overindulgence.

One feared consequence of maintaining ketosis for a prolonged period is ketoacidosis, a state in which the blood acidifies from high-levels of ketones. So far, the level of ketones necessary to reach ketoacidosis has not been possible in nutritive ketosis. There are several real side-effects to consider, however, including digestive issues, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and micronutrient deficiencies. When choosing the ketogenic diet, it’s important to discuss supplementation with your doctor or nutritionist to avoid these types of issues.

With trends shifting from low-fat to low-carb/high-fat, high-protein to moderate-protein, deciding what to eat is challenging. If you grew up during the low-fat craze of the 1990s, you may find it difficult to add healthy fats to your diet. One benefit of a short-term ketogenic diet or a “low-ketogenic” plan is that it allows a higher number of carbohydrates and can act as a reset for the sugar-filled Standard American Diet. Once the curve from high to low blood sugar is stabilized, it can be easier to make choices based on true, biological hunger instead of cravings.

Ultimately, a balance of fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes, and animal or plant protein provide an accessible middle ground for most. By eating a varied diet, you are more likely to get all of the necessary nutrients without supplementation, and you are less likely to binge on forbidden food categories. If you have been limiting caloric intake for weight loss, adding a slice of avocado can be profoundly satisfying.

Resources

Scientific American

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/mind-guest-blog/the-fat-fueled-brain-unnatural-or-advantageous/

Women’s Health Magazine

https://www.womenshealthmag.com/weight-loss/high-protein-diets

Scientific American

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/mind-guest-blog/the-fat-fueled-brain-unnatural-or-advantageous/

National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2716748/

 

 

How to Exercise Proper Breath Control while Running

Those who run for fitness reasons and endurance practice know just how important it is to maintain proper breath control while running. Anyone who has exercised under the supervision of a trainer should be well aware of the strict instructions issued while working out and understand that it is a very important aspect of exercise. If you can learn to control your breath as instructed, you will glean maximum benefits from your workout or exercise program.

Controlling Your Breath while Running

Running is a common aspect of many exercise programs, since its reputation as an effective cardiovascular activity is suitable for all age groups and fitness levels. Exercising correct breath control will enable you, the runner, to run more, and to benefit more from an increased heart rate coupled with less fatigue. One of the simplest ways in which you can ensure that your body is getting enough oxygen into the lungs is by inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly. Pay attention to your breathing and avoid rapid breathing, since that will prevent oxygen from getting deep into the lungs.

Rapid Breathing is Pointless and Unhealthy

If you are one of those runners who seem to be constantly out of breath and are unable to speak while on a run, it does not necessarily mean that you are out of shape; your breathing is likely the culprit. Following a deep and slow breathing process will enable you to not only get the required amount of oxygen into your lungs, but will prevent breathlessness. Contrary to what you may have imagined while watching a healthy runner getting out of breath, the rapid huffing and puffing indicates incorrect breath control. If you control your breath, you will be able to run and enunciate at the same time without much effort; the results will speak for themselves.

Proper Techniques take Time

Proper breathing techniques take a little time to inculcate into the system. It will take time, but if you pay attention to your breathing, you will notice how you are able to run longer distances and can control the levels of oxygen intake effectively. Controlling your breath matters a great deal, and it is guaranteed that you will notice results after being able to increase the distance covered by a few miles since you will have more energy to burn.

Mastering effective breath control techniques will give you the best out of your running experience. Breathing correctly will ensure an optimum cardiovascular workout, and will benefit other areas of your fitness program as well, such as swimming and yoga.

 

 

4 Kickboxing Workout Benefits for Weight Loss and Fitness

Kickboxing for Weight Loss

If you are looking for a tough workout that will get you in shape fast, then you definitely need to check out kickboxing.

The combination of bobbing, weaving, kicking and punching will get you in the best shape of your life in no time at all.

A person weighing 155 pounds can burn up to 400 calories during a 30-minute kickboxing workout. That’s a lot of calories in a short amount of time.

Here are a few great kickboxing workout benefits.

Benefit #1 – Burns More Calories in Less Time

As stated before, the average person can burn as much as 400 calories during a 30-minute kickboxing workout.

That means you can burn as much as 800 in an hour.

Kickboxing is a very high energy workout, which will get your heart pumping and your muscles burning. If you want to take it up a notch, consider adding jump rope in the mix.

Jumping rope can boost your calorie burn up to 900 or more in an hour workout. If you have stubborn belly fat, kickboxing will whip it into shape.

Benefit #2 – Total-Body Toning

Say bye-bye to those flabby arms and jiggly thighs. A kickboxing for weight loss workout will engage every muscle in your body. Some you never even knew you had.

Because of this, you will notice your body starting to tone up after only a few weeks. To burn even more calories, consider using a kickboxing pad during your workouts.

Benefit #3 – You Will Learn Self-Defense Moves

While most people just look at kickboxing as an intense, fat-loss workout, it’s also a great opportunity to learn life-saving self-defense moves.

When you are kicking, jabbing, bobbing and weaving, you are actually learning self-defense without even realizing it.

Some instructors will make it a point to let you know why you would use certain moves. This helps you better understand how you would defend yourself with that particular move.

Benefit #4 – Relieves Stress

The best way to relieve stress after a long day at work is through intense physical activity. Kickboxing would fall into that category. You will be kicking and punching as hard as you can. The result will be less frustration and a better night’s sleep. When you are kicking and punching the pads, you can imagine it being anyone who has made your day more difficult than it already was.

Maybe it’s your boss, a coworker or a friend. The idea is to get it all out on the pads. Let go of all the stress and tension of the day.

You will also be releasing the feel-good hormones known as endorphins, which will give you an extra boost in your mood.

Final Thoughts

Overall, kickboxing is an ideal exercise to get in shape and feel better about yourself and your body. Just make sure you take the time to learn how to do the moves the right way. Otherwise, you are putting yourself at risk for serious injury.

 

Want To Lose Weight Faster? Try These Workouts

Photo credit: Petr Kratochvil [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Exercise is one of the most important factors for a healthy lifestyle. If you want to lose weight fast, then it’s essential that you choose the right workouts for the best results. Workouts are also needed to both tone muscle and keep the mind and body healthy.

The idea of ‘working out’ doesn’t have to incorporate a session at the gym. The term ‘workout’ means “a practice or exercise to improve one’s fitness,” or “a session of vigorous physical training.” So any kind of intensive activity can be classed as a workout.

 

Here are some excellent workouts to try if you want to lose weight faster.

  • Walking. This might sound like it is too simple for to be called a ‘workout’, but if you currently have a sedentary lifestyle, then walking can be ideal. Walking has been described as a low-intensity activity to lose weight. It should be possible to burn up to 360 calories in 45 minutes. This means that walking 45 minutes per day a person can lose around a pound a week.
  • Swimming. Swimming is a great way to lose extra pounds. Depending on the type of swimming, a person can burn between 450 and 700 calories an hour. This is a low impact workout as the body isn’t subject to the bumps and strains of lifting weights or running. It’s a good form of exercise for people with other health issues like obesity, arthritis, and asthma.
  • Kettlebells. What are they? Cast iron balls that have a single handle. The interesting aspect of using kettlebells in a workout is that, because the weight isn’t distributed evenly, the body has to work to counterbalance kettlebell’s weight. Kettlebell workouts can burn around 400 calories in about 20 minutes. In terms of cardiovascular benefits, a workout with a kettlebell can be the equivalent to running six miles.
  • Jumping/skipping rope. This shouldn’t be resigned to the school playground. A jumping rope workout can help you burn up to 800 calories in an hour. Just 10 minutes of this type of workout is the same as running a mile. There are more than just cardiovascular benefits to using a jumping rope. It’s also a great way to improve endurance, coordination, and agility. It’s more intensive that other workouts, but this means that you don’t have to do it as long.
  • Squats. Squats burn fat fast and build muscle. Squat exercises use most of the muscles in the body. Why is this important? The more muscle mass a person has, the better his metabolism, and therefore calories will be burned faster. Squat workouts can be used with or without weights, therefore perfect for either home exercising or at the gym.
  • Lunges. These can be performed at home and no equipment is needed. They are great exercises to tone your lower body, but more importantly they great for burning calories. It’s estimated that a person can burn around 275 calories in a 30-minute workout. There are various types of lunges, even ‘explosive lunges.’
  • Bicycling is another low-impact, high-rewards activity for losing weight. Depending on how fast a person cycles and the type of terrain, it is possible to burn up to 1,000 calories in an hour. Cycling can be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle. For example, you could cycle to work or use the bicycle for leisure time. If that’s not possible, then most gyms have cycles.
  • Running. This is the ‘classic’ workout for losing weight. Running is great for strengthening muscle, improving the cardiovascular system and is generally good for the whole body and mind. It only requires a good pair of running shoes and a music player to help you keep pace. Even better is to use high-intensity interval running. This involves short bursts of running at top speed, then a slowing the pace before the next burst.

5 Ways Exercise Improves Your Emotional Health and Quality of Life

Many people may suffer from mood swings, whether it is from stress, or negative feelings about life and life situations, or possibly sadness from mild depression.

Negative changes in mood can also be a side effect of prescription medication, chronic pain, or even insomnia. If you are someone that needs help with your mood, and wants to feel better, an ideal way to accomplish this is through exercise.

What Exercise Can Do For You

Exercise can help improve your mood because of the changes it causes in your body, self-image, and your mind. How exercise can start to improve your mood will differ depending on what was making you feel not your best.

Here is a list of ways that regular physical activity can work to help you feel more positive about yourself and your life.

  1. If you are depressed: Exercise releases endorphins, which produce feelings of euphoria, well-being, and happiness. Other neurotransmitters, like serotonin, also helps to elevate mood. When you commit to working out on a regular basis, it provides structure to our days and distracts us from negative thoughts. Sometimes all you need is a good 30-minute run or walk in nature to lift your spirits.
  2. If you have poor body image: Regular exercise can offer up results that make you feel like you have accomplished something, instead of being stuck in a sedentary lifestyle. After a while, you may also see changes in your body, which can help your self-esteem and self-worth soar.
  3. If you have too much stress: When you’re fully engaged in a workout, you tend to focus on how your body feels, such as the movement of your muscles, your effort, your pacing, getting air in your lungs, etc. Thus, exercise helps to divert your attention from the stressful thoughts and concerns of the day and is redirected to the present moment. The physical movement gives your stressed out mind a break. Your brain has a chance to clean out all the cluttered thoughts, so you can concentrate on one task. At the end of your workout, you may feel like you’ve been through a meditation session with renewed energy and increased clarity.
  4. If you have trouble sleeping: If you work hard during your exercise session, then it should wear you out enough to allow your body a good night’s rest. You will often find that working up a good sweat can also reduce insomnia by decreasing anxiety, arousal, and stressful thought patterns. Examples of aerobic exercises that are good for sleep include walking, swimming, jogging, dancing, and cycling.
  5. If you have chronic pain: The right type of exercise can help with some of the agony you experience day to day and could alleviate symptoms in some situations. For instance, low-impact exercises, such as yoga, and weight training can be great for people that have joint pain.

How Much Exercise to Do

There is no dispute that exercising is a great thing to do for too many reasons to count, but it isn’t completely obvious how much should be done for best results.

Experts recommend that the average person complete 30 minutes of exercise, 5 times a week. This means you should be doing a 30 minute workout of medium intensity to maximum intensity. Of course, you don’t have to start with 30 minutes.

If you are new to the game, start with 10 minutes of exercising at a time, and keep pushing yourself until you can do the full half hour.

What Types of Exercises Work?

Studies show that lifting weights and aerobic activities help the most when trying to get the full benefits of working out.

Here are some examples:

  • Running or jogging
  • Sports
  • Dancing
  • Elliptical machines
  • Cycling
  • Fitness classes
  • Step aerobics
  • HIIT
  • Tabata
  • Circuit Training
  • Bodyweight exercises
  • Swimming
  • Martial arts
  • Hiking or walking
  • Household chores
  • Any rigorous activity that elevates your heart rate

Once you know the benefits and what to do, exercising doesn’t seem like that big a deal. Even the busiest people should be able to find half an hour a day to devote to their mental health, and as a bonus incentive, regular exercise can help you live a longer and happier life.

Total-Body Toning Workouts

Toning your whole body doesn’t mean you have to spend hours each week in the gym pumping iron or running for miles every day. Good toning exercise routines work multiple muscle groups simultaneously.

Bodyweight Exercises

You can design bodyweight routines to work your whole body. Combine individual exercises to work your upper body, core and lower body. Select 3 exercises for each muscle group and then do 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise. After a brief, 10-minute warm-up consisting of aerobic exercise, such as jogging in place, do 3 each of squats, lunges and standing calf raises to work your lower body. Work your core by doing crunches, planks and push-ups. Push-ups are a total body exercise because you work your arms, back, core, glutes and legs. Finish your whole body, bodyweight routine by doing pull-ups followed by bodyweight rows. Do bodyweight rows by lying on your back underneath a barbell bar. Grasp the bar and lift your upper body off the floor toward the bar. Repeat the entire circuit 2 to 3 times once you increase your strength.

Swimming

Swimming is a genuine total body toning exercise. It’s easy to do but gives you a vigorous workout in a short amount of time. Swimming strokes, such as the freestyle, back stroke and butterfly, work most every muscle in your body when performed correctly. Water provides not only support for your whole body, but also provides additional resistance you can’t get when you exercise on dry land. You can firm and tone your whole body in a swimming pool, even if you don’t know how to swim. Walk or run back and forth across the pool in waist-deep water to tone your lower body and core. Use hand paddles to push and pull water as you walk or run to tone your upper body at the same time.

High-Intensity Cardio

High-intensity cardio burns calories and tones your entire body. Running, jogging and brisk walking firm and tone your legs, thighs, buttocks and core. Tone your arms by vigorously pumping your arms as you run or jog while holding a couple of 2- to 5-pound dumbbells. Turn your walking, running or jogging workout into a high-intensity interval workout by sprinting at top speed for 30 seconds followed by 2 minutes of running, jogging or walking at a slower pace. Step aerobics while holding dumbbells also works your whole body, firming your arms, chest, core, buttocks and legs. Cardio exercises, including jumping jacks, jumping rope and squat jumps can be incorporated into any high-intensity cardio routine to firm and tone.

Toning Supersets

Toning supersets work your whole body in one exercise session. These exercises are easy to do and effective for full body toning. After your warm-up by doing some light aerobic exercise and stretches, do 3 sets of 10 repetitions of each exercise. Rest for 30 seconds between exercises. Repeat each set 2 to 3 times. Tone your upper body, core and thighs by doing crunches on a stability ball while holding a dumbbell in each hand. Follow crunches with 10 scissors to firm and tone your thighs, buttocks and core. Do lunges on each side, 10 repetitions leading with your right leg and another set of 10 repetitions leading with your left leg. If you have access to a leg press machine, start with 20 pounds of weight and do 10 repetitions on the machine. Rest for 30 seconds and do the entire set again.

 

Best Exercises for People with Arthritis

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Arthritis can strike any joint in the body. Often the joints in the hands, knees and ankles are affected, which may limit your mobility and seriously impact your quality of life. If you have been diagnosed with arthritis, it doesn’t mean you have to stop exercising. Regular exercise can help alleviate joint pain, increase flexibility and range of motion, and strengthen your bones and muscles. See your rheumatologist for a thorough check-up and personal direction. Your doctor can advise you about specific exercises that can help improve mobility and reduce pain while avoiding damage to your joints. Avoid high-impact activities like running, jogging and sports such as tennis and basketball. Walking, swimming and low-impact aerobics can help keep you fit and lessen joint pain. Pilates, tai chi, yoga and other stretching-type exercises can help increase your range of motion and strengthen muscles.

Range of Motion Exercises

Range-of-motion exercises stretch your muscles and lessen joint stiffness. Stiff fingers can be exercised by making a fist and then stretching the fingers as far apart as you can and then repeating the exercise. Make a fist and then rotate your wrists in to the right and then reverse and rotate your wrists to the left. Repeat the exercise with your fingers extended. Increase your elbow flexibility by raising and lowering your elbows. Sit at a table and place your elbows on the table with your palms turned up toward the ceiling. Turn your hands over palms down on the table while keeping your elbows in contact with the table surface. Turn your hands back over. Repeat this exercise 10 times. Try stretching your arms in front of your body and turning your palms up and back down. While you are sitting at the table, exercise your knees. Raise and lower your feet by bending your knees up and down to increase knee flexibility. Next, point your toes and then relax your foot several times. Rotate your ankles clockwise 10 times and the counter-clockwise 10 times.

Resistance Training

Resistance training exercise strengthens muscles, which can help relieve pressure on joints and reduce joint pain. Ask your doctor which strength training exercises are safe for you before beginning a weight lifting program. Perform some biceps curls with light weight hand-held dumbbells. Do some leg lifts while wearing ankle weights to help strengthen the leg muscles. Isometric exercises help strengthen muscles with little or no impact on the joints. Stand with your back straight against a wall and drop your shoulders slightly. Look straight ahead and slide down the wall until your knees are bent and your body is in a “seated” position. Slide back up the wall and then repeat this exercise 5 to 10 times. Strengthen your thighs and hips by sitting on a chair and squeezing a medium-size exercise ball between your knees. Squeeze and relax repeatedly for about 10 repetitions. Increase repetitions until you can do at least 20.

Low-Impact Aerobic Exercises

Low-impact aerobic exercise like swimming, biking and walking can strengthen all of your muscles, work all of your joints and improve your heart health. Try to walk, swim or ride a bicycle for at least 30 minutes every day. If you can’t set aside a full half-hour block of exercise time, get your 30 minutes of low-impact aerobics in 10 minute increments throughout the day. Swim 10 to 15 before breakfast or after work. Walk for 10 minutes in the afternoon and ride a bicycle for 10 minutes in the evening.